1. Interpretation

week 1: Mon Aug 28 & Wed Aug 30

Viewing laws as rules that are applied to individual cases is the most common picture of legal reasoning (see e.g. here, although see also here). Is this picture accurate? How are rules applied to individual cases?

reading –  Schauer, Rules—in law and elsewhere [PDF]

week 2: Wed Sept 6 — No class on Mon Sept 4 Labor Day

We will read a case in which a legal rule about inheritance was interpreted and applied according to its purpose and not its letter.

reading – Riggs v. Palmer (1889) [PDF]

NB: Assignment #1  [PDF] – due Wed Sept 6

week 3Mon Sept  11 & Wed Sept 13 

Same topic as last week.

week 4: Mon Sept  18 —  No class on Wed Sept 20

Some judges believe judicial decisions should be guided primarily by the text of the law; others believe the purpose of the law should play a pivotal role. We will examine their arguments.

watching –  Scalia and Breyer Debate the Constitution [video]

watching –  Sotomayor’s Senate hearing  [video]

week 5: Mon Sept 25 & Wed Sept 27 – classes canceled this week

We will continue the discussion “text versus purpose” by looking at a divorce case decided by a court in Yemen.

reading – Messick, Interpreting tears [PDF]